Friday, February 13, 2015

Mahn Doo, one of my fav Korean restaurants in Melbourne CBD

Truth be told, I am rather hesitant about writing this blog post. Why, you ask? Because I absolutely love Mahn Doo, and I don't want to share this secret gem with everyone else. *shifty eyes*

I appreciate that not many people are aware of Mahn Doo yet as I can easily get a table, even on a Friday evening.

I like that I don't have to queue, wait for long, or even call to make a table booking. I often say to my friends, "I booked out the whole restaurant to have dinner with you!"

At the same time though, I really really enjoyed all my experiences at Mahn Doo and I do hope to see them succeed. Of course, I also hope that others get to enjoy their amazing Korean food too.

I don't think my blog post will be able to change much of that, but I think Mahn Doo at least deserves my raving post, so here goes! :)

Mahn Doo is sister restaurant to popular Joomak and Hwaro, located at the corner of Latrobe and Queen Street.

I first discovered Mahn Doo at the end of 2014, and have since returned 5 times. I must really LOVE the food for me to visit the same restaurant 6 times in 3 months. Mahn Doo never lets me down. I've brought few groups of friends there, and like me, they all love it.

Mahn Doo or usually spelt as man-du (만두) are Korean dumplings. So when a restaurant names itself after a dish, you just have to order it.

At Mahn Doo, you can have it two ways - fried (군만두) or steamed (찐만두). They offer three different fillings - beef, pork, or kimchi pork. I've tried them all, but my favs are the beef and kimchi pork.

Steamed Kimchi & Pork Mahn Doo ($5)
The steamed mandu's have soft, silky skin which aren't too thick; just the way I like it. I love how it's so beautifully presented too. They even come with the best dipping sauce.

I like to have the kimchi pork dumplings steamed, and the beef ones fried. The Boyfriend, on the other hand, is a bigger fan of the pan-fried dumplings (whatever filling it may be).

Pan-fried Beef Mahn Doo ($6)
But I can see why, they're delicious - crisp to perfection on the outside but each bite is tender, with a burst of tasty fillings! And hey, not greasy at all which I really appreciate.

As its name suggest, Mahn Doo do serve the best Korean dumplings I've had in Melbourne, and so so reasonably priced too! For 8 pieces per serving, the fried ones are $6 and steamed ones $5.

Korean Traditional Seafood Pancake ($17)
The haemul pajeon is another good snack to share. Guess what I like most about pajeon? The crispy edges! So yum, and I love how they come served with the most delicious dipping sauce. I really need to find out how the sauce is made!

Korean traditional minced beef BBQ ($24)
Oh, I'm salivating as I write this but the tteokgalbi at Mahn Doo is one of the best I've had! I used to only enjoy the ones from Darac, but this has also won my heart.

The meat patties were so tender and full of flavour, but what's unique about Mahn Doo's version is that they have mushroom and tofu sandwiched in between, Really really yummeh!!

Pan-fried Spicy Pork Bulgogi with Vegetables ($22)
Yeap, the spicy pork bulgogi did taste just as good as it looks. It was sweet and had a good kick of spiciness to balance it all up.

This is one of my favourite Korean main dish, and not a lot of places do them well. This however, was perfect!

I can't seem to stop raving about Mahn Doo, can I? They should hire me as their ambasssador. :P

Grilled Fish - I'm guessing mackerel? ($18/$19)
I'm sorry I can't remember what fish we ended up choosing (it's either mackerel, rainbow or atka) but all I can say is that I was surprised even a simple grilled fish could taste so delicious. My friend and I were like "Wah actually very yummy hor!"

I also absolutely love their unlimited ban chan (side dishes) of kimchi, Korean potato salad and soft silky tofu.

I know, it's embarrassing because they don't charge for refills, but they're so delicious, we just gotta be shameless and ask. If we go in a group, we ask for refills at least 3-4 times, at least.

Deep-fried Whole Chicken served with honey mustard, salt & pepper ($30)
Of course, The Boyfriend being the KFC lover that he is, insisted that we tried Mahn Doo's version. I'm glad he did though, because it was SO GOOD! I liked that they use a thin batter which was fried to a crisp, yet the meat was kept juicy and tender.

Sweet & Spicy Fried Chicken ($18)
Because the fried chicken was so delicious, we thought we'd try their dakgangjeong $18, which is essentially crispy fried boneless chicken in sweet and spicy sauce.

I'm not too big a fan of boneless chicken but oh that sauce, if only I can pair it with the original fried chicken, rather than the boneless fried chicken.

Spicy Kimchi & Pork Traditional Soup $20
We also really enjoyed the soondubu jjigae (soft silky tofu stew) with kimchi and pork ($15). I've had this three times in 6 visits.

If you're all in for something spicy, I highly recommend the spicy kimchi and pork traditional soup (as pictured) instead as I found it much nicer! Yes, this is coming from someone who doesn't tolerate spiciness very well.

I'm looking forward to try their galbi-tang (beef ribs stew). We wanted to top up our order once after inhaling the first round of food, but was told there was a 20 minutes wait for the galbi-tang so we ordered something else instead. Can't wait to try!

Grilling marinated thinly sliced beef with mushrooms ($40)
It was my first time having beef bulgogi jeongol and I thought geez, that's a huge portion!

Little did we know that beneath all that beef and variety of mushrooms, lies a little dome which was part of the bronze grilling pan. It was delicious though, and I kept helping myself to the broth.

If you know me well, I'm not too big on alcoholic drinks, but I do enjoy my makgeolli's! Like Joomak, Mahn Doo also offers flavoured rice wines. I've only tried the peach rice wine thus far, but I am hoping to try the other flavours next time.

All in all, amazing and absolutely taste food and drinks! I haven't had a dish or meal at Mahn Doo that has let me know yet. I cannot recommend this place enough!

Even the interior is set up really beautifully, it looks very posh and fancy, don't you think? I feel like the decor gives off the impression like "Oh, this place must be expensive!" But it's not, in fact the prices are very reasonable.

As for service, it has been really fantastic; all the waitstaff were extremely friendly and always very welcoming on all my visits. I also appreciate that they have a little 'CALL' button on every table so there's no need to wave or signal to attract the waiter's attention.

Pair all of that with the perfect ambience with jazz music playing in the background, it's the perfect place for a date or even to hang out with friends for a few drinks and good food.

Mahn Doo on Urbanspoon
Mahn Doo far exceeded my expectations, and I simply cannot fault this place. Do give it a try, and you can thank me later! ;)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

tana cafe

Yay, it's a long weekend! The Boyfriend and I went out on a lunch date this afternoon to one of my new favourite go-to-place, tana cafe.

I first found out about 'tana cafe' when I-Hua and Shellie both raved about this little gem on Instagram. Boy, am I glad they did!

I absolutely adore tana cafe; this quaint little cafe is set up so well with the perfect ambience. The Boyfriend and I spent our mid-morning just talking, reading the newspaper and enjoying our brunch.

It's a tiny place, but I really love the quirky interior fit out - so simple yet very cosy and welcoming.

Of course I had to have one of the sweet matcha latte. The Boyfriend and I had a cup each, and it wasn't enough. I swear, I could have had two, maybe even three.

It was oh so creamy and delicious! I usually add a teaspoon or two of sugar into my coffee, but because this was already slightly sweetened, there was no need to add more.

But the best part is, they use bonsoy so there's no aftermath of tummy issues for me yay! Even though I am lactose intolerant, I don't usually like soy milk, but this was different, in a good way, of course.

I can't actually pinpoint how that's made possible, but I'll give the barista full credit for making such a great cuppa!

Today we had corn mayo toast to start. The Boyfriend and I both love Korean corn cheese, and this is quite the same, except that it's served on delicious sourdough toast. Oh, it was delish!

The Boyfriend said, "I'll happily eat this for breakfast every morning!" Okay, challenge accepted! I'm looking forward to recreating this dish at home for him.

Baked eggs with multigrain toast was on specials menu today so I thought we'd give it a try. We thought the baked eggs were cooked really well, with a mix of Japanese and Moroccan taste.

Absolutely beautiful! This dish was hearty and filling, but not overwhelmingly so. That's what I love best about tana cafe - their take on really tasty meals that's healthy and not too rich.

I also particularly love how the egg yolks were still gooey. Sorry, no #yolkporn as I was too busy digging in.

We've also had this beautifully presented Japanese rice gratana during our previous visit, several weeks ago.

Brown rice baked in miso flavoured béchamel sauce, tasty cheese, ham, egg, beans, and topped with salad, pickled ginger and dukkah. It looked too pretty to be eaten, don't you think?

It was so tasty, yet still quite light on the palate - and that's exactly what I love about Japanese food. Although having said that, I guess I would have appreciated a little more of the bechamel sauce and cheese. But that's just me because I love my rice with sauce.

And of course, I simply could not resist the Japanese inspired croque monsieur that caught my eye!

I was sold at "miso flavoured bechamel sauce", but unfortunately we could barely taste the miso as it was only just a slight hint.

It was still delicious though. I particularly liked the addition of caramelised onion, which added a kick of deliciousness.

This is possibly the first croque monsieur that I've had that didn't make me jelak upon finishing. In fact I think I'd happily have another slice.

Tana Cafe on Urbanspoon
I love everything about tana cafe; from the cute fit out, to the light yet tasty food with Japanese twist, the friendly, polite service. and most importantly, their delicious housemade sweet matcha latte. ;)

tana cafe has a small menu, but everything we've tried thus far has been nothing short of delicious. I also appreciate how everything is very well priced too.

For all the obvious reasons above, I can totally see us coming back time and again! I was just saying to The Boyfriend this morning, "Let's come back again soon so I can try their mocha."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy New Year 2015!!

Holla!! If you've been following me on Instagram, you'd know that I've just returned from a 3 weeks holiday in Malaysia with one tooth less, a slightly swollen jaw and fortunately for me, 3kg's lighter (yay!!).

Oh, don't get me wrong! I sure did indulge in all the local food during my stay. The Boyfriend and I also made a short trip to Penang to visit our friends and to enjoy all the good food.

Upon our return to KL, I had to put up with a lot of "Wah, you've gained a lot of weight!" remarks, from my parents, relatives and even my helper, which agitated me a lot.

But I've somehow managed to lose all that extra kilos that I've piled on following my wisdom tooth extraction surgery.

The surgery went really well, and I cannot reiterate enough how important it is to go to a good dentist.

If you're from Malaysia, and live close to Klang, I highly recommend Dr. Ngor from Emmanuel Dental Surgery Klang. He was so patient with all the concerns I had, and most importantly very gentle too.

I felt absolutely no pain at all during the local anaesthetic procedure, and throughout the surgery or even after that.

Unfortunately for me though, I was allergic to the painkiller that I was prescribed with. This resulted in me throwing up all my food and drinks for a whole 1.5 days.

I felt so sick and weak, I could barely even get out of bed. Except of course when I needed to throw up. All the spewing sadly injured the surgery wound, and at some point, the wound started to bleed again.

Obviously I couldn't take anymore painkillers, so I had to put up with the discomfort and relied slightly on Panadol. I also iced my cheek/jaw area externally to help soothe the pain.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I came down with a fever and cold the following morning. Thankfully I was home, in the care and support of my parents, who took such great care of me.

I did eventually get better and I'm all good now, except my mouth won't open as big as before seeing as the wound has yet to fully heal.

But I'll take all that pain I had to endure as a blessing in disguise though, as I am grateful for the weight loss. :P

I'm trying to maintain the weight loss and am doing my best to lose even more. So during the week since my return, I've been going to the gym, and have actually started eating clean. 

For breakfast and dinner, I usually have either overnight eats with chia seeds and fruits, or green smoothie/juice.

For days when I'm a little hungrier, I'd have an omelette with spinach, or a grilled chicken Maryland (without skin) or some stir fried vegetables. Sometimes I allow myself to indulge a little and I'll have eomukguk (Korean fish cake soup).

I've also started packing my lunchbox to work. I'm doing it "bento style" with a main, a side dish of vegetables and a side of protein.

Here's my effort over the past two weeks:

Lunchbox Week 1: Grilled Miso Chicken Breast as my main, stir fried vegetables with sesame seeds, nori tamagoyaki (seaweed egg roll). And yes, I ate the same thing for 4 consecutive lunches.

Lunchbox Week 2: Japanese hambagu (hamburger steak) as my main, edamame, cherry tomatoes, nori tamagoyaki (seaweed egg roll). This week though I mixed it up a little and sometimes have sugar free carrot kinpira or kimchi as my bento filler.

I try really hard to go carb and sugar free during the weekdays. I also ensure that I hit the gym at least 3-4 times, with a minimum of 40 mins to an hour time spent.

During the weekends, I allow myself a little leniency to enjoy some rice or noodles. This usually involves my favourite Korean dishes such as bibimbap or tteokbokki.

I also allow myself the chance to rest up during the weekends with sleep-in's and the chance to just roll around in bed.

In the evening though, The Boyfriend and I will take our newly bought bikes for a spin around his neighbourhood and sometimes even, if the weather permits, we'll do the trails together. 

I've been back for 10 days now and so far, I've lost a further 1.5kg!! :D

No doubt, I'm really proud of myself but at the same time I'm also pretty sure it's the early stages and I'm only losing all the water retention weight.

I know it'll get harder from here on but I'm not going to give up. I've never been this motivated before and I hope to keep this determination going until I hit my goal of losing a further 10kgs.

Truth be told, I've never liked what I see in the mirror, and I used to hate my body. But I've learnt to slowly give my body the love and attention it deserves.

This has helped not only with this whole process, but also gave me a boost of confidence. Instead of just sitting around and whining about how fat I've become, I'm actually doing something about it.

There are days when I return from work feeling really tired, and of course I'd just want to take a shower and jump into bed.

But these are the days when I have to work really hard to convince myself to drag my sorry arse to the gym.

Tell yourself surely you can spend just 10-15 minutes with a bit of exercise - that's how I do it, because once you're pumped you're going to keep going. 

For me, the hardest bit is actually getting there, but as soon as I'm there, there's no problem with pushing myself hard. 

I've even chopped off my hair because as silly as this sounds, I find it troublesome spending all that time washing and drying my hair.

It really puts me off from working out. So yes, I'm now donning a short asymmetrical bob which I absolutely love! 

I think I look a lot fresher, what do you think? 

Those who know me well, knows that I've been battling with my weight for years. Losing weight has become a staple item on my new year's resolution list.

But this year, I'm doing it a little differently. I've got it down as:

Love my body! Get fit and healthy!

Once you're fit and healthy, you'll eventually lose the fats. At least that's what I'd like to believe.

To all of you out there on the same journey to fitness as I am, good luck! Let's keep pushing hard to achieve our goals.

As the Koreans would say, "화이팅! Fighting!"
Click on 'OLDER POSTS' for more! :)